Written by: Michael Kennedy
The Yes Network was privileged to partner with the Avon Hills Folk School and participate in their first ever Youth Hand Camp! Participants from our sites had the opportunity to experience art and nature in the beautiful Avon Hills. The camp focuses on getting the kids back to nature, making things with their hands, and allowing for curiosity to blossom while they use their five senses to explore new things.
Campers were split up into groups, each with Yes Leaders and United Way Leaders. The groups made rotations to five amazing artists who came to not only share their work, but teach the kids that they could do them too.
At the first station, they got to learn how to make a nature journal using book binding. Heidi Jeub, the instructor, brought enough supplies for each kid to make their very own journal and decorate it however they wanted. Having it early on in the day was perfect for the storytelling activity, and anything else they wanted to write or draw throughout the day.
The next station was storytelling with Beverly Cottman, or “Auntie Beverly”. Auntie talked with them about the value of stories passed on through generations. She also asked them to look around them and share what they observed around them. After they all had the chance to share, they got to create their own story by each adding a new part. After everyone participated, they recited the whole story from beginning to end. They were amazed at what they could come up with as a collective once the story was finished. To finish, Auntie let the kids write their own stories in the journals they made.
After lunch, and a quick game of sharks and minnows, the kids went to Sarah Nassif to trace leaves and plants they found while exploring. Once they found something interesting, she then let them trace what they discovered using walnut ink and feather quills found in nature. She spent time with each kid, guiding their curiosity, and explaining what it was they had found, and why it is important in the natural world.
Natural drumming with Buddy King came next, the perfect activity for them to get their expressive energy out. He first explained how to hold and play the hand crafted traditional African drums made from animal skin. After letting them experiment with whatever sounds they wanted to make, he taught them how to hit the drums following a tempo. Once they were comfortable playing the animal skin drums, he demonstrated that drumming could be done by hitting a hollow piece of wood. They each took a turn playing the different wood drums, and as a grand finale, one of the Yes Leaders played a constant beat, while the kids all got to solo and play whatever they wanted.
The last station was with Water Biologist Tony Dingmann. Set out on a table beside the stream was a table filled with bird feathers and various sized deer antlers. He explained which bird the feathers came from, how deer shed antlers, and talked about his role exploring and investigating pollution in different streams. If they wanted, kids could take a feather home with them. Kids were enamored by the minnows, leeches, and frogs and spent most of the time either splashing around in the stream or holding them. They left with a new understanding of their local aquatic ecosystem.
Yes Network was thrilled to be invited to the first ever Youth Hand Camp at the Avon Hills Folk School. A huge thank you to Heidi Jube, Auntie Beverly, Sarah Nassif, Buddy King, and Tony Dingmann for sharing their incredible talent. This experience was a first for many of the kids, and seeing their faces light up with amazement as they walked along the forest trails, and passed the wood cabin being constructed entirely by hand was truly magical. Hearing the kids ask the staff as they were leaving “When can we come back?” Solidifies Avon Hills Folk School as a place where children’s curiosity truly blossoms.
Interested in learning more about the Avon Hills Folk School? Visit them here: https://intheavonhills.com/
This activity is made possible in part by a grant from the Central MN Artis Board with funds appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature from its general fund.
Supported by a grant from the Central Minnesota Area Community Foundation.
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